Getting a swarm out of a tree

mancle(mississippi)April 27, 2005

I have a question that one of you guys can answer. I have a neighbor friend who has a colony of bees in an oak tree near his house. The entrance is about four feet from the ground. It is an active hive and probably been there for years. If I fix a place to mount my hive box near there entrance and put a screen funnel over there entrance so they will have to go through my hive box will they homestead in my hive box by the end of the year? He does not want to destroy the bees and I don't either and does not want the tree cut. I am open for suggestions and don't mind working........thanks in advance Mancle

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ccrb1(z5 IND)

the screen funnel idea is not likely to get the queen out, although it will get all the workers out and the queen may die as a result.

if you want to capture the gene pool, wait until is swarms. Then catch that

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 12:41AM
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ccrbl, I wondered aabout that. I know of no fasst way to get the queen or bees to leave the honey or broud if they have any yet. I thought maybe in time they would make residence of the hive verses the tree. Any ideas.....please mancle

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 8:35AM
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The queen cannot fly unless she is getting ready to swarm. She may walk out if you catch her near the mouth of the tree-hive and you aim the smoke exactly right. The odds of that happening are about the same as 29 cent a gallon gas in the next month. Although it is hard to fathom, the only way to get the present queen into your box is to cut the tree down. I have had this question ask to me at least a hundred times. Sorry.

Assuming that you can make a tight seal with the tree, and assuming that this box you weld to the tree can stay there indefinitely, and assuming that the cavity in the tree is quite limiting, then it may be possible that in the next year or 2 the hole in the tree would get crowded and the bees would use your hive. However, the propensity of the queen is to move into the upper part of the comb for the winter, so if she did go to your box to lay in the summer (doubtful, for reasons to be explained), she would almost certainly go back to the tree in the winter, assuming that the hole extends above your box.

The reason she would probably not lay in the box: as the hive is emptied (cold weather) and filled, different areas become available. The workers will more readily fill the closer space (your box) with pollen and nectar/honey. This means that the queen would probably run into already filled comb if she did want to move into your box. As you may know, adjacent cells in a comb are generally filled with like matter. That is, if the center of the frame has honey in it, the queen will likely look elsewhere for a place to lay. She does not usually scatter her eggs around (signs of a bad problem).

So, although you may not want to believe it, or are hoping for some magical solution, chances are that if you want to get the queen you will have to be extraordinarily immpossibly lucky or will cut the tree. If you have any other ideas, or come up with a solution, please post back. This sort of question comes up a lot (bees in a wall, etc.)and I have not seen an easy answer. Sorry.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 4:19PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

well, if the feral hives prospers, the old queen will come out in a swarm. No real work required. The chance of catching her and putting her genetics to work in a box is very high.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 4:29PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I Was doing some woodwork today, making a game board (go), and as I vacumed up some of the wood chips it occured to me that you could probably vacume up sturdy insects like bees relatively easily given a shop vac of sufficiently large size, Can this be done or is there some factor that I havent taken into account?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 8:57PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

like a bee vacuum? I have one. It won't dislodge a queen, and it invariably kills and injures some.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2005 at 7:24PM
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I used to have a bee vacuum too, and what I also found was that the queen will run into the farthest crack, some of the workers are crushed, the rest of the bees are pi**ed off, and the drone of the vacuum is worse that a bonnet full of angry bees. Whoever invented the bee vacuum was not into saving the bees it vacuumed up, it was meant to get rid of bees IMHO.

Bees aren't that sturdy, their wings are gossamer thin plaques. Subjecting them to that kind of force means that many of the ones who are subjected to this wind tunnel are doomed to spending the rest of their days as disabled workers, and bee hives are not equipped with handicapped accessories. Workers that can't fly don't live long.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 3:59PM
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flathman(z9 SC)

i am no expert. i have been keeping bees for a few years. people occassionally call to remove swarms from their yards, holes in trees. sides of houses. often i can get the whole swarm with the queen. other times i rescue/save as many bees as possible. and add them to one of my other hives.
it would be nice to save the queen but it strikes me that saving the workers is better than having an exterminator kill them all.
my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 5:54PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

workers live 3-5 more weeks after you remove them. They have no chance in reproduction. Grabbing workers and throwing them into an existing hive can be helpful. But long term, saving the workers would resign the queen to death by chilling and starvation. You may as well destroy them all.

Removing a swarm is not difficult. This thread is wrongly titled as removing a swarm from a tree, when it should be, removing a colony from a tree.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 8:06PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I have an Idea....not sure if it will work.[Newbie, first Year with two hives]

Take, lets say a 3/4 or 1" auger drill and drill a hole or two on top of the cavity on a angle down into
the cavity, put your hive box with some drawn comb, perhaps some lure, like lemon grass essential Oil or whatever it's called on top of the hole [secure good to the tree] then drill into the bottom of the hive body [same size] & make connection with a rubber hose.

It will bee a good possibility, that the bees will go up thru the hose into supper when the honey flow is on and eventually the queen too.
I would leave it there, perhaps up to 2 years and you can check if there is brood later on and take
the box down when you see the queen there.

Remember, bees like to go up!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 12:33AM
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Very true, Carol. We are not dealing with a swarm anymore. Swarms are playthings. Colonies in a tree are almost always lethal to either the tree or the colony after removal.

I've dipped bees out of chimenies, wired feral comb into a frame, removed exterior siding to get at colonies and sawed hollow trees down. In most of these cases I was sucessful at getting a living hive.

I've also propped up supers on ladders with wire funnels, set drawn comb on stumps with the bees below the super, and smoked bees from one side of a wall with a super (with filled honey cells) on the other. All I got were workers who needed to be combined. If you have a weak hive this can help, but mostly it is a pain in the @ss that takes more time than it's worth, but I really believe that beekeepers should go through this for just learning. Knowledge itself is worth lots.

Hi Conrad, the word 'hose' connotes a small diameter circular tunnel. If you watch bees for any length of time, you will see that they almost never never enter such places. A crevice in a tree that is real deep is rarely used, and the holes on the sides of buildings musn't be very deep for the bees to use it. (A layer of siding, a layer of sheathing, we're dealing with maybe 2 inches at most.) After traffic has been established, then the smells and all that are right, the bees can get used to it.

Let's look at it from a bee's viewpoint. You prefer to fly than walk, and some of your biggest enemies are spiders. Having to go into a small tunnel and walk many many steps through an enclosed tube where a spider could be waiting or the web spun across the opening is a scary thing. Rather, enter from the outside, grab the loot, exit and fly back to your hive. In the mean time, since nobody has ownership of the box with drawn comb, nobody patrols for wax moth, and you know what happens there. (First year newbie? If you've never had wax moth, may you never be the wiser because of it.) If there is no entrance from the outside, the bees are likely to propalize the end of the 3/4 inch hose. Good thought, and I can't say that it will never work because never is a long time. But faced with that circumstance (or with an established colony in a wall), I ask "Can I cut the tree down?" Or, "Can I rip the outside of the wall off?" When the answer is "No", then I wish them a good day and leave. Life is too short and hives are too cheap to spend all the time and effort needed to bring out a colony through a crack, with a small chance of sucess after all that.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 10:21AM
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How about modifying Conrads advice with an apparatus/contraption using pvc pipe and some plywood. Since only 4 feet from ground should be easy to work on.

Have seen observation hives where this pipe is used as a tunnel. Have also tried a honey shack for two years where the entrance had black pvc pipe through the wall enshrouded to the bottom entrance. (Also a meshed open window above for the top entrance).

If you are able to enshroud(using pvc pipe, pvc elbows, plywood, nails and cement) their entrance and force the bees to pass through your super, say by piping through the back of the super, over time they may move in.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 2:20PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

You never know until you try it!
Why PVC??
I think rubber is better [not slippery] the bees can walk easier!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 12:11AM
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The plumbing pipe has about a 3" internal diameter and a rubber hose might get a pinched/blocked pathway, so structurally overall.

A sort of interesting aside is that Ive used cement to fill
a hollow in a huge wild cherry tree. An oak may or may not resent such an attachment. I recently heard even mulching an oak too deeply can kill it some how over time, but also heard that theyre very adaptive to various external assaults, so go figure.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 1:35PM
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A bee vacuum should never been a full power shop vac with a box. It can't be that strong. There are various methods for reducing power.

I saw a handmade one at a bee association that had the neatest way to prevent injury to the bees landed in the box. At the hose entry into the the box they attached a cheap plastic glove hanging down with the tips of the fingers cut off. This was tight enough to slow the bees down, soft enough to prevent their injury and they dropped into the box from there.

Enclosed is a link to construction of a bee vac (without the surgical glove landing device though)

Here is a link that might be useful: Bee vac

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 8:19AM
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After reading all of these ideas, I'm curious. Would vmarcos's idea work? If so, would it hurry it along if you put a little smoke in the tree to send the bees up into the supers? Of course, the supers would have to be out of the way of the smoke.
Also, in order to lure them in, wouldn't you have to either use honey or extract of what ever crop they are working? I was told that you can't use just any extract, they are focusing on one certain crop at a time. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 9:49PM
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Hello bee experts. I don't mean to deter you from the subject at hand, but you all seem to be very knowledgeable about bees and so I will take an opportunity to ask for help with something:

4 days ago we noticed a bee swarm about the size and shape of an upside down pineapple, hanging from the ceiling of our outdoor entryway to our office. Not knowing what to do, I went online to find the answer. I've since learned the following:

1) Swarms are supposedly normally docile - so long as you don't mess with them.
2) They are supposedly just hanging around waiting until the scouts find a new colony, and should go away in a few days or so.
3) That the only way to get rid of them seems to be to call in the experts.

Herein lies my problem. I am an expat living in Guatemala and there are no beekeepers to call. I am sure there is the¨"Guatemalan way" to get rid of them, but I don't want to see them killed. However, I do know that there is a possibility that this swarm may be of the "Africanized" variety - due to my geographic location in the world.

Does anyone have any advice about what I should do? I don't want to kill the bees, but I don't want to jeopardize our entire office if there is a possibility that they might get pissed off and attack someone as they are coming into work.

Shouldn't they have gone away by now (4 days)? Is it possible that they're planning to stay forever?

Thanks so much for time and advice!

Best regards,
James Goller

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 11:08PM
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philmart(New Hampshire)

If you can rig the funnel (trap) and persuade the bees to move into a hive nearby, all you need is a frame of young brood from another beekeeper, and the bees will raise themselves another queen. Best then to destroy the old colony


    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 7:57PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

I still maintain the screen funnel idea ends up with chilled brood and a dead queen.

I got a call on Monday about a tree downed on the weekend, with a nest of bees.

It was the easiest tree removal I'd ever done. The hollow of the tree was exposed, but the bees were gentle indicating among other things that the queen was in there somewhere.

I vacuumed up the bees in my home made bee vac, and I cut out the comb, and any with serious amounts of brood, it was trimmed into rectangular shape and tied into frames. Once all the comb was in frames in a hive body, I shook the bees out the vacuum cage over the frames. I left the hive body next to the downed tree.

Next day, the log was filled with bees again. I thought "Oh no, I missed getting the queen." But the log was hollow and had no comb, only remaining pheromone scent, I suppose. I looked into the hive body and there were some bees in there.

The next day, I figured I'd vacuum them up again, but when I approaced the log, there were no bees there. And the hivebody was full.

Moral, don't assume the worst. Don't be in a hurry to do stuff. Give the bees a chance to mourn the loss of a home then watch them do the right thing.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2005 at 12:31AM
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The owner has three choices live with the bees in the tree, cut the tree down and give the section to a bee keeper to move to another location may be used as a OBSERVATION HIVE OF HONEY BEES note if the tree is hollowed out then it will attract other swarms, the other I donÂt want to say but here it is: pesticides but I do hope not, for 2 reasons! it kills a hive of bees and the wax honey and brood is left behind to attract other swarms.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 4:59AM
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I had never seen this until it happened to me today. I was washing my windows when I heard the "buzz". Initially I was freaked out and ran inside. After the bees settled in my backyard, I called a bee keeper. He dilligently climbed a ladder and scooped approximately 15,ooo bees (his estimate) into a 5-Gal pail with a cover. He grabbed the queen and most of the workers and will start a new colony. Consider me a soft heart fool, but I still have about a cantaloupe size "ball of bees" in my apple tree. I fear these guys will die off soon unless they return back to where they came from. I know that honey bees are dying, at an alarming rate, but a majrity was saved thanks to a dilligent bee keeper. When in doubt, call a bee keeper to remove an open swarm safely.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 1:15AM
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If he's not too far away you may be able to get the same beekeeper to pick up the stragglers and add them back to the swarm he took

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:18PM
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